KINGSTON, Tenn. -- Scottie Mayfield told supporters to expect "false/negative" television advertising from his Republican primary opponents in the coming weeks, but declined to identify the source of that information or describe the content of the ads.
"Republican leaders and voters report that we'll be attacked on TV soon," the Athens, Tenn., dairy executive wrote on Twitter. "False/negative ads have no place in [Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District Republican] primary."
Joe Hendrix, a spokesman for Mayfield, said, "Scottie committed to not going negative in any way." He declined further elaboration on that basis but said his boss anticipates attack ads with "fabricated" content.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, the well-financed, first-term incumbent Mayfield is trying to unseat, denied having knowledge of anything Mayfield implied.
"I've had two ads out -- I've reviewed both of them and I'm very, very proud of those ads," Fleischmann said before Thursday night's Roane County Tea Party debate in Kingston. "I don't really know what Scottie's talking about at this point in time. It comes as news to me."
Fleischmann, in an April deposition reported last month by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, testified he did not see some of his own 2010 campaign ads before they aired, despite the disclaimer, "I'm Chuck Fleischmann, and I approve this message."
In a separate deposition, Fleischmann's former campaign consultant and current chief of staff, Chip Saltsman, admitted to approving ads that superimposed the state of Tennessee seal over a nongovernment document.
Also in Kingston, Republican challenger Weston Wamp flatly denied he would produce or approve any negative ads against Mayfield. A representative for Ron Bhalla, Fleischmann's other GOP opponent, said such ads wouldn't come from him.
Mayfield declined to debate, missing the third public forum in which all the other GOP candidates, including the congressman, agreed to participate.
The Republican field already has spent nearly $200,000 in Chattanooga broadcast television ads alone, and all have been positive, topical or biographical to this point. But with Mayfield and Fleischmann taking each other seriously, experts have predicted a turn toward the negative in the dwindling days before the Aug. 2 Republican primary.
With only a week to go before early voting begins July 13, the candidates seem to be speaking with more urgency in an effort to distinguish themselves despite little difference in ideology. On topic after topic at Thursday's Kingston debate, Bhalla, Fleischmann and Wamp offered red-meat answers to the orange-clad Roane County Tea Party faithful, hitting illegal immigration, fiscal concerns and "Obamacare."
"I think we ought to take Al Gore, put him on an iceberg and put him way out there," Fleischmann said in response to a question about global warming.
Answering a question about America's involvement in Syria, Wamp said "we need to think long and hard" about intervening or "starting another war" unless "our country gets attacked." He got a round of applause before confronting his status as the 25-year-old son of Fleischmann's predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp.
"I grew up around politics," the challenger said, "and I don't like it."
Later, he said he would not sign any pledges yet would "sign my life away" to the 3rd District's 700,000 constituents if elected.
In response, Fleischmann touted a House vote to defund the United Nations.
"That's reality," Fleischmann said before motioning to Wamp, "That's not what I want to do when I get there."
Throughout, Bhalla touted his plan to email House legislation to his constituents, tally the responses and vote accordingly.
"I am not running against Mr. Fleischmann," he stressed. "I am running for my own platform."
Democrats Mary Headrick and Bill Taylor are competing for their party's nomination. Independent Matthew Deniston also is running.